Monday, December 27, 2010

What Happens In Vegas Stays In Vegas

As a competitor it’s pretty exciting to be in Vegas, to go to Vegas, even to anticipate going to Vegas, yet, ten days of Vegas for most cowboys stokes a pretty good yearning for the reality of home. Home becomes an escape.

Much of what I saw in this year’s NFR team roping was amazing, and for those who did amazing things, going home is necessary for their reality (how well they actually did) to digest. Those who suffered what was obviously not the roping that got them there, are anxious to get back to their “reality”, the reality-roping that put them in the top 15 in the first place.

Definitely, I admire the competitive spirit of 2010 NFR team ropers, and I want to applaud Trevor Brazile for coming a thin thread away from proving that a guy can reach and catch all 10 steers on the end of his rope. If only one strand more had snagged on, he would have done it!

Though this year’s average Thomas-&-Mac run was somewhere around 6.5 seconds, we saw many 4s and 5s, and nine of the 15 teams stuck one in 3 (seconds). In fact, 3 seconds at the T & M has become common.

Analyzing the great debate, “Which is the wiser way to compete at the Finals? Go for day money or go for the average?” of course, depends on personal agenda. Regardless weather a guy’s there for business, the experience, his grandpa…etc., one must assume all ropers would like to win enough to put their entire rodeo season in the black ($30,000.00 finals money is about the mark). Because ten of this year’s 15 teams met the quota just in day money, it seems a guy could ignore the 10-head pressure, just rope for “day money“, and enjoy himself. Ah, but what happens pressure-wise if by the 3rd or 4th go he hasn’t placed?

Granted, today’s kids don’t have the survival stresses of yesteryear, so winning and money might not pump the same pressures it did back in the day; but if money and winning does matters, the anxiety of slimming chances can be crippling.

Before I preach game theory, lets consider two basic methods of roping: fast and furious. Furious roping is (Thomas & Mac style), “going for time”, day-money gunfire with the clock as a primary focus. Ropers come (across the line) swinging and throws are designated by variables (i.e. when the steer moves, or his horns reach a certain point out the gate, etc.) that determine allotted time frames. After (if) the loop goes on, then the run falls into place.

Fast roping (old fashioned roping) is efficient roping, utilizing solid fundamentals with the primary focus of catching. Opposite furious roping, fast roping sets the run up first implements team components, and throws are designated by positions that ideally seal the deal.

Fast roping sounds too tedious and meticulous for today’s blink-of-an-eye action, but I guarantee when focused on setting things right, high percentage shots appear, and speed, luck, and phenomenal unfolds (just like we witnessed with team Brown & Lucero, the only team to catch all 10 steers) along with consistency. Average winners, Brown & Lucero, proved in rounds 2 and 8, it’s not impossible to speed-strive and catch all 10 steers, but it takes discipline. You’ve got to think about your roping--your run, (not the style of the day) and rope appropriately (steer for steer, rather than round for round). In round two, Brown & Lucero knocked it back and hammered one in 3 (seconds) for a first place check of $17,512.00, but in round 9 got out late and had to follow a steer around for 12 seconds to win $44,909.00. At this year’s NFR their game was about catching, and their only competitors were themselves.

Arguably, five other teams were in it to catch, however, the majority of the 14 teams that went out of the average, played for speed. Two teams impressively caught 9 of their 10 steers (Brazile & Smith and B. Tryan & Long). Three teams caught 8. And while each of the 14 placed in at least one round, Brazile & Smith placed in a total of 8 out of 10 rounds, seating one of the top 3 slots in 5 of those 8 rounds. As day-money leaders they won close to $84,000 and were given a 2nd place check for the average. Though, Daniel and Twissleman didn’t win a single round they roped nine out of 10 steers too, seating consistently 2nd or 3rd in four rounds, taking one 4th place (round 8), earning a total of about $54,000 in day-money.

Not far behind Brazile & Smith in day money, were fierce gun-slingers, Brady Tryan and his heeler Jake Long. Though they missed two of their 10 steers, they won rounds 4 (3.5 sec.) and 7 (3.9 sec.), placed 2nd in rounds 3 and 6, picked up additional checks in rounds 8 and 10, earning the second highest round-money total of around $70,000. I can’t argue with those figures.

Certainly, this year’s day-money strategist chalked up the chips with each round. However they and their many opponents faced and suffered considerable risk. By the 3rd round 5 teams were already out of the average; by the 5th round 11 teams were out, leaving 8 guys a guaranteed minimal payoff of over $21,000.00 just by tangling up 5 more steers. In the 6th round another team went down increasing the Average payoff to almost $29,000.00, and by the end of the 7th round 14 teams were out leaving Brown & Lucero almost FORTY-FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS just for doing what they do everyday on 3 remaining steers. As an “Average” winner, and one who’s always searching for that path of guaranteed money, it’s a no-brainer for me…“Come on man!”

Admittedly, we all enjoy today’s high speed in the roping arena. It’s impressive, exciting, and keeps the show alive, but when we’re talking a 10 header, roping for speed with disregard for catching glares a lack of event-integrity. But who cares, right? I think I’m the only one. I also believe average payoffs should pay those and only those who went the distance, ate the whole elephant, caught all their steers. Where else in rodeo do they pay average money to a team that didn’t catch all steers? When only one finals team catches all 10 steers, that’s a mighty feat, and that team should be rewarded with mighty recognition and a mighty check. “Average money should go to Average winners. not competitors who came close.

Until the producers set a new bar (highlighting average compensation) we won’t see significant “average” competition. Voiding all integrity, NFR producers encourage speed and the gamble for “day money” (why hell, we’re in Las Vegas, that’s what they do), leaving “average” winning it’s nickel’s worth of consideration. .
The sad thing is all those talented ropers we just watched will probably go on and to their credit probably add another finals feather to their hat, only to come back and cast their fate away again with their day-money loops. The average is merely an aftermath. For most competitors, there it will sit, the surest way to win, hidden in the shadows of discipline.

That’s all I know…
Rope Smart!
The Lion

Friday, December 10, 2010

Deja Vu?? - Mistakes Repeated in 2010

Am I watching the 2009 NFR or is it 2010? It’s the 9th round and again there’s only one team that has caught all steers. Back in the day, it was not unusual to have only one team catch all 10 because back in the day there was an ability problem, hence the reason for 3 loops. Today, the problem is not in their ability, it’s in their head. Last night at the conclusion of the 8th go ‘round, 12.9 won 5th in the round, yet I ask, “Where were the other 9 teams?” My guess is they stepped out of their hotel rooms, threw their ropes and hit the strip. It’s the N-F-R boys, we play to win the game. Come on man!

When you stumble across the Camarillo name in the rodeo archives the definition reads: we rope for food. Along the way you may win a significant trophy like an NFR buckle, or 6, but it was serious salsa every time we backed in the box. Never…I repeat NEVER, any mucking around. We always showed up, and we always left some kind of evidence that we’d meant business. If a partner took a flash-shot and cost you a paycheck being a show off he was fired on the spot. I had a hot-shot heading for me one time try to ocean wave one to please the crowd and his fancy ocean wave-off! cost me a perpetual award that had a $5,000.00 bonus to it. As you guessed, I gave him the rest of his life (with me) off.

Today, catching 10 head pays two and a half times the money of what a round pays. Do the math. To the NFR qualifier I ask, “Did you work all year long to make it to the NFR so you could gamble it all away? Did you go to Vegas intending to launch your rope from the hotel room and get back to the slot machine as fast as you can or did you go to Vegas to do business?” Understandably, my plan for a competitor my be completely my own, nevertheless, it pains me to watch the many careless mistakes. “Just catching” 10 steers buys a lot of groceries boys. As well, it just might get you a gold buckle.

That’s all I know…

Rope Smart!
The Lion

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

million dollar team roping cooper camarillo

If you are going to Las Vegas for the NFR, then run out to the Million Dollar roping at South Pointe and watch two legends rope on Tuesday.  Roy Cooper and Jerold Camarillo!  There is young guns, and there are champions.  You might want to bet on the latter.  Two of the worlds best known ropers in tie down as well as team roping will partner up and compete at 4pm on Tueday December 7th, at the South Pointe.  You really need to be there. Good luck Jerold!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Changing the Game - How the Camarillo Family Revolutionized the Sport of Rodeo

If you love team roping, and the history of rodeo, you're going to want to get your hands on a copy of Changing the Game - How the Camarillo Family Revolutionized the Sport of Rodeo.  Its going to be available Fall 2010.  Watch the trailer at:

Young Guns

Jerold gets excited everytime a new student masters a lesson, or he hears about students doing well.  He has lots to be proud of this month.  A number of his students (all adults) competed at the ACTRA Finals in California and numerous youth students competed at the junior high, and high school level rodeos as well.  The Camarillo's also had a good showing at the NCJRA Finals last month where students placed well and collected awards and cash, including a Steer Stopping Year End Champion Title.  The JHSRA first two District 5 rodeos of the season were held in conjunction with the first two District 5 HSRA rodeos.  There were numerous Camarillo students, both boys and girls, competing and placing.  Two Camp Jerold cowboys, (one each from jr. high & high school) faired very well. The high school cowboy won a 1st/2nd in Tie Down Roping and 1st in the Average, 1st/3rd Team Roping (as a Header) and 1st in the Average, Senior All-Around Cowboy.  The junior high competitor finished with a 1st/1st Breakaway, 1st/2nd Ribbon Roping, 1st Team Roping (as a Heeler), 1st/1st Goat Tying, Junior All-Around Cowboy.  Note: the JHSRA rodeos did not have an average.  Other Camp Jerold students did well, placing in various events.  In the past 6 months there has been a steady increase in youth students at the teaching arena (Camp Jerold) in Oakdale, CA and you can see the competition heating up at the rodeos throughout California.  There was a steady stream of new and advanced students (youth and adults) last week, but there is always room to schedule lessons, including multi-day, stay over lessons.  Leo is in Arizona and conducts lessons for youth and adults on a regular basis as well.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Camarillos Receive Top Honor at Oakdale Cowboy Museum's Annual Benefit Dinner

This year, the board of directors at the Oakdale Cowboy Museum has selected Leo, Jerold, and Reg Camarillo as their honorees.  No stranger to awards, this one hits home, literally.  Leo and Jerold moved to Oakdale at a young age relocating from a ranch in Santa Ynez.  The boys, along with their cousin Reg have put the Camarillo name at the forefront of Team Roping with many successful wins, NFR appearances and inductions into the PRCA Hall of Fame to name a few.  PRCA Director of Communications Kendra Santos said of the Camarillo's influence, "It's not a stretch to say that the Camarillos revolutionized team roping.  They are true pioneers and living legends in the cowboy community, and will go down in history among the sport's all-time greats.  Leo, Jerold and Reg showed up with that rare combination of natural talent and tireless work ethic.  Their discipline and fierce competitive spirit could not be denied.  They were a dominant force that raised the roping bar forever".  Leo says the change in Team Roping was born out of necessity.  "We found that when roping in a pasture with tall grass, the 'trap loop' which was the style back then didn't work.  We found that by getting in time or rhythm with the steer, we could rope the hind feet while still in the air.  This new way cut seconds off the old style and subsequently changed the game." 
You'll still see Jerold and Leo regularly competing in roping competitions.  This weekend, Jerold Camarillo will be competing in the 55th Annual Oakdale Ten Steer.  A nearly week long 10 steer marathon that has become an iconic roping event on the West Coast.  What is perhaps even more pleasing to youth and adult ropers alike is that Jerold and Leo have slowed down their competition schedule and opened up more time for individualized roper and rope-horse training.  Both Leo and Jerold conduct regular lessons for adults and youth in California, Arizona and other locations by request.  Congratulations to all three Camarillos for being honored at this year's Oakdale Cowboy Museum annual benefit dinner.

Camp Jerold Roping Students Qualified for NCJRA Finals

7 roping students that receive lessons and training, including tune up training on roping horses, have qualified for the NCJRA Finals being held in Oakdale, CA September 11/12th.  Both boys and girls will be represented and participating in Team Roping, Steer Stopping, Tie Down Roping, Breakaway Roping, and Goat Tying.  The NCJRA Finals invites the top 10 cowboys and cowgirls in each event to the Finals, based on points accumulated throughout the year.  As expected, expert training and consistent lessons are paying off for these top contestants that are being taught by Jerold Camarillo at the Camp Jerold arena and training facility in Oakdale, CA.  "There is a mix of adults and kids throughout the month that come for roping training" says Mr. Camarillo.  "Its pleasing to watch the improvement in roping skill and horsemanship". he added.  One of the cowboys qualified in the top 10 and made the finals despite starting later in the season, missing 4 rodeos in the circuit and roping in breakaway for the first time.  "That takes determination" says another roper, also a Finals qualifier.  Others would say it takes great training to accomplish that feat.  Two of the contestants struggled with difficult horses, both having problems in the box, spoiling many a run early in the season.  Jerold Camarillo worked with the ropers and their horses, and both are now highly competitive, one of which took second in Girls Breakaway during the last  rodeo.  Many of the qualifiers also qualified at the CHSRA (California High School Rodeo Association) Finals in Bishop, CA this past June.  Most of these Camp Jerold students are seated in the top 3 or 4 positions, with a couple of students ranked number 1 in their event coming into the Finals.  That certainly illustrates the benefit of great training.  "Anyone can work with a student, but not everyone can work with a bunch of different students with different problems and achieve results" says Dardalee Bussell, DVM  a mother of two of the roping students.  "You know you're a true teacher when you can see improvement across the board in so many different youth and adult ropers" she adds.  For Camp Jerold and Mr. Camarillo it certainly has been an exciting season to see so many students make the Finals in the same year. Congratulations to all of the NCJRA Finals qualifiers.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

July is unseasonable cool in California, but HOT in the arena

The Camarillo's spend most of their free time training others.  When Jerold and Leo aren't roping themselves they are sharing decades of knowledge with students.  The proof in the puddin' is when students do well.  Recently a number of students excelled in the NCJRA rodeo circuit winning the Clements Buckaroos Rodeo (Clements, CA) July 24th rodeo.  First place in Calf Roping, Steer Stopping, and Breakaway Roping were all credited to students that train under the tutelage of the Camarillos.  This summer has seen a significant elevation in roping quality at the west coast rodeos, in part due to a continued increase in students wanting more training.  There is a daily flow of pros, amatures and kids that move through the roping boxes at the Camarillos in California and Arizona.  Lucky for these same students there are a steady flow of wins and buckles that keep following to those that train hard, train well, and train to win.

Monday, June 21, 2010


Well it’s June, and in Rodeo that means another chance for MEGA MONEY. For those who have chosen to try and make the NFR it’s a chance to get an advancing foothold towards the big goal. For others (June-July 4th) it’s a time to bust your balls and never look back.

“Cowboy Christmas” (June through the 4th) is an opportunity to excel or reestablish yourself regardless of what happened the past winter or spring. Typically the idea is about trying to post a fast time somewhere and jump ahead, catch up, or at least acquire future entry fees. Of course, as with any time in rodeo, you’re either rock’n-&-roll’n on a downhill go or you’re constantly “recalculating” the GPS.

A good June run on a competitor’s summer tour is like a good June rain on a rancher’s summer pasture (grass grows/greener pastures). Garnering a World Championship at the Reno Rodeo not only puts a nice jingle in your pocket, it puts a nice jingle in your spurs and sets the stage for what I consider the best season of all in rodeo—the period just after Cowboy Christmas.

Embarking what I call the majors (Nampa, Salinas, Salt Lake, Cheyenne, Ogden, Calgary) with a relaxed mind and checkbook, (as opposed to stressed-out and starving) makes a big impact on a competitor’s summer-tour, but nevertheless, you bring your “A” game to these rodeos and expect to do some opportune damage. Most of them are 2-headers and a final, and because these summer majors are where the cream begins to whip, you don’t enter the arenas--in fact you don’t even enter the competitions--without a plan. Unless winning doesn’t matter, you’ve got to be prepared, professional, and proficient, o adios amigo.

Back in the day, if a west-cost team roper didn’t have a good Salinas it got mighty dry. The next nearest “Team Roping” rodeo didn’t roll around until Albuquerque come late September. Consequently, he could head out on a redemption-run through the Midwest hitting every Tom Green County Fair on the map and hopefully still have a horse and a vehicle when he finished. Today’s team ropers have the luxury of a mandated event. With the “75-rodeos” rule one hasn’t much worry about the time of year. Which brings me to a question I’d like to propose to my readers: Why can’t they let a guy rodeo all he wants AND THEN pick his best 75 rodeos of the season?

I welcome and look forward to any discussion or inquiry on this subject via my email or blog page found at (

Best’a luck this summer…

Make it happen!

The Lion

Tune up your roping with a Pro - Costly or Priceless?

Just this spring, Case Hirdes spent a week with Jerold Camarillo tuning up his team roping skills.  Jerold spent time specifically working on his delivery and slack pull in addition to other fundementals.  Who is Case Hirdes you ask?  Your 2010 California High School Rodeo Association (CHSRA) Champion Team Roping Heeler.  He is now qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals and will be competing in Gillette, WY in July.  Case and his partner won the state title with 36.27 on 4 head, with the longest run at 9.24.  Sure working with a Pro costs some money, and taking time off to do it can be inconvenient, but as it proved out in Bishop, CA last week, it is often money well spent.  Call Jerold or Leo about available slots for personalized instruction.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Vindication - Finally

Vin·di·ca·tion: the defense, such as evidence or argument, that serves to justify a claim or deed.

That is just what happened for Jerold Camarillo last weekend as two of his roping students performed very, very well at the annual NCJRA Rodeo in Clements, CA. 

Jerold was finally vindicated by the performance of these two students, after watching a few not so stellar performances.  These two roping students, Colton Farquer, and Amanda Valente, have been receiving consistent instruction from Jerold for the past year.  At times they've looked good, improving monthly and even placed well in a couple of rodeos, but like the nursery rhyme "when she's good she's very good, and when she's bad she's horid" they both have been hot and cold throughout the past few rodeos.  "When they are on, it looks great, when they are off, you have to scratch your head and wonder why.  I've seen them turn steers in under 8 in practice" said Dardalee, Colton's mother. 

That all changed last weekend in Clements, California. Amanda roped very well in the steer stopping, 1st in breakaway and 3rd in team roping, netting her cash and the Girls Reserve Champion All-Around title on Saturday.  Colton won the tie down roping, 2nd in steer stopping, and 3rd in the team roping (heeling for Amanda), and snatched the Champion All-Around title on Saturday.  He went on to win the tie down roping again on Sunday at a second rodeo, and did well enough in steer stopping and team roping (with Amanda) to net him the Reserve Champion All-Around title for Sunday.

In not so many words Jerold Camarillo said "I put a lot of work into training these two.  It's hard to go to a rodeo as their coach and sponsor and see them perform poorly when I know they can perform so much better because I see it at practice." He added, "Finally, they do great, and not just in a single event.  It was nice watching Amanda and Colton placing well in multiple roping events and then see both of them win All-Around titles in the same day. It really made me feel good" he said.

"The team struggled some this year, at times blaming each other, but lately that has stopped and they put the team back in team roping.  That one thing, working as a team, seems to have made all the difference.  Amanda handled steers great all weekend and Colton cleaned up two feet when he needed to, neither blaming the other, and both doing their job." says Byron, Colton's father.

"I know Jerold has been wondering if it was ever going to come together for me (tie down roping) because he's watched a few of my rodeos, but after last weekend I hope I've made him proud, winning not just one tie down roping but two, back to back, and an All Around and a Reserve All-Around title in the same weekend." says Colton.

When complimented by an adult roper about his performance and his back to back tie down wins Colton responded modestly "I could have done better, ...and tied faster." That brought a smile to Jerold.

Amanda Valente and Colton Farquer both live in Oakdale, CA and take lessons at Camp Jerold on a regular basis. Amanda and Colton are qualified for the CHSRA State Finals in Bishop, CA June 2010.  In addition to roping Amanda competes regularly in Barrels, Goat Tying and Pole Bending.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010


Just about every professional roper today, myself included, wants to beat on his drum. With the convenience of mass communication anybody anywhere can say anything and somebody somewhere will be sure to hear it. The other day I was thumbing through the various roper newspapers/magazines strewn across the table, and in every one I found “How-To” words from the experts. Different tips and theories on A to Z all aimed at the same goal: expediting (roping) relativity. And while I appreciated their competitive angles and progressive ingenuity my underlying question was what level of roper the experts assume their readers.
Back in the day, my brothers and I went down to South America to put on a school. We arrived a few days early and upon mingling with the natives got caught up in a jackpot. The Southern-Am boys wanted to try us in a 5-header. To that point, their only exposure to roping had been a National Finals tape. You can imagine their strategy. Sixty teams of ‘em, all trying to cut their hands off reaching, ducking and making dust for “day-money” every round. They challenged us on a pen of Zebus (native Brahma) that had been so roped out they were like Billy goats. Characteristically Zebu horns grow straight back making them tough to pipe, and this pen was so savvy anytime a loop came near their horns they’d tip their heads back and shrug it off. Of course our opponents had no clue how to neck one. Their whole thought was to rope as fast as one can, and if their loop landed around the neck it was sheer fluke. My brother and I were familiar with the Zebu and their tricks, so we decided to work things to our advantage. Settling back we let them out and “just caught” our five (around the neck) to win the average, for which of course nobody cared--accept us. Though we took the lion’s share of loot the average wasn’t a big deal. Nobody even considered it. In fact, folks still don’t. Nothing much is ever said about the average until the last steer, making it more of a supposed bonus. In any case, the South Americans’ misconception about winning was that it’s all about speed.
Building on their perception of what the pros were doing left the South Americans in the dark. They were bent on one idea, one way of roping. Once we took them in the school and laid some foundation they saw the light. Developing their fundamentals shed light on our perspective of safety, solidity and therefore, fun; as well as the value of versatility. We showed them how to incorporate and work with conditions, i.e. how to rope “pesquez” (Portuguese term for around the neck). And contrary to their National Finals tape, how to utilize 200 x 500 foot of arena by stretching the score out a ways to give their cattle a chance. A longer score gave the ropers an opportunity to operate the “team” dynamic (a major tool on the open range), and ultimately discover smooth, as opposed to speed, is what makes fast. With a view of the whole picture their previous NFR-style methods proved no longer cool because the consistency was low, the danger was high, and it would be no good to them on the ranch if they end up in a ravine somewhere with their fingers bleeding and hanging off.
Today I work with all levels, novice on up to pro, and at all stages it’s about catching. Look at last year’s National Finals. One team out of 14 caught 10 steers. At that caliber missing is not a skill-issue. It’s a view issue, tunnel-vision to be exact. In a one-head situation all 15 teams know what it takes and have what it takes to win. However, one-headers aren’t a matter of catching they’re a matter of time. Since making a solid run can be equivalent to making a quick miss, competitors are condition to just nod and react. With that, they get bent on one idea, one way of roping.

When rodeo was born there was no professional exposure. Roping and riding was a way of life, and cowboys used what they had for fun, making rodeo their recreation. Individual challenges helped the sport get better and faster, but on the whole competitors were handy because they rode their horse all day long working and were exposed to countless circumstances a horseback. When they rode in at the end of the day and wanted to hone their skills for the weekend competition, they just picked up their rope, but never got off their horse. They could zero in on their rope because riding was automatic. Now days the team roper rides the pick-up, and the young protégés hang around 7-11 playing video games until it’s time to rope. Their only time in the saddle is in the arena when they’re practicing or learning, which amounts to a drilled turn and smoke, turn and smoke steer after steer. All creativity and instruction is directed at speed, hence the view of team roping is the same view our South American students had 30 years ago. As a result horse AND rider vision is narrowed to “now or nothing”.

This year’s National Finals champion-team had something the other 14 teams were missing--and I’m not talking about cattle and I’m NOT talking about skill. Amongst the gunslingers, Nick Sartain (Header) and Kollin VonAhn (Heeler) were able to keep their composure, keep their focus (on the total picture) and systematically manage their own challenges to rope as a team. That was basic discipline--a rare attribute in today’s arena, be it competition, practice, and otherwise.

Bottom Line: the majority of “how-to” articles written by the pros are for the pros. It’s o.k. to take on pro ideas, but a roper has to be disciplined and experienced enough to know when they’re applicable. Acting on top-level/pro ideas when one’s riding and roping ability is not solid will leave him in the dark just like it did the South Americans. It eventually clouds his view of the whole picture and sets him up for all kinds of trouble and hindering habits. Would it be wise for the novice skier to follow the Olympic champion up the highest mountain and then try to emulate him down the double-black diamond run? I’m sure he’d get to the bottom, but he may be sorry about how he gets there. For those I work with, my goal is stable advancement. How far they soar with the skills I give them is determined not by how fast I send them, but how solidly. And when they can see the whole picture, the sky becomes their limit.

That’s all I know…
Rope Smart!

The Lion

Monday, March 29, 2010

Lion Eyes

Nothing is more piercing than the stare of a lion.  And those that have stared back at roping great, Leo "The Lion" Camarillo understand the power of that stare.  The piercing stare from a real African Lion comes from his confidence in knowing he is the king of the jungle (or Serengeti) and has the skill, polished by endless hours of practice, and the "attitude" to win.  That same confidence in the animal, can be achieved in the human if certain principals are applied.  First, stay focused.  Ever seen a lion in pursuit of a gazelle pull up and start looking at the birds flying by?  Second, expect the results you want.  I'm convinced the lion sees the kill in its mind even at the start of the hunt.  Third, practice.  Its starts with the lioness and her cubs, and everyday that lion refines its skill. Fourth, be consistent.  Lions observed in the wild will typically start a pursuit based upon their knowledge of the prey, terrain and their own health.  Essentially making choices and compromises based upon conditions present.  Your roping should be the same way.  Stay focused, expect to catch (see it mentally every time), practice relentlessly, and be consistent.  Understand the difference between cocky and confident.  Use that mental edge to your advantage.  The Camarillos share stories of yesteryear when Leo, Jerold and Reg would pull into a roping and other ropers would start loading horses to go home.  In some cases the contractor would ask them not to come.  "you're killing me! every time you boys show up, half of these guys want to leave."  Because the Camarillos got lucky and won a few ropings?  No, consistency, focus, and practice yielded many, many, many wins.  If contractors and promotors aren't asking you to load up and go home (because you are winning so much) then maybe its time to "learn from the lion".  Use the same principals a lion uses to hunt.  If you aren't roping with the focus and consistency you want, then get some more expert help when you practice.  Don't just go to the practice pen, doing the same thing over and over expecting better results.  Go talk to Leo or Jerold about a spring tune-up lesson so that your summer season is more enjoyable.  It's fun to go rope, but putting a few bucks in your pocket each time makes it a bit more so.  When you get up tomorrow and you're brushing your teeth in the mirror, take a good hard look at yourself. Do you have lion eyes or lyin' eyes?  (guest author)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

CHSRA Challenge of Champions

Every year, California High School Rodeo Association (CHSRA) sponsors a Challenge of Champions rodeo.  This invitational style rodeo selects the top three contestants from each event, from each of the nine districts.  These top cowboys and cowgirls then compete in a single go event split over the weekend, and the top ten come back in a short-go Sunday performance.  This year Jerold Camarillo was present to watch not one but numerous youth champions compete that he had coached over the years.  From Farquer to Valente, Santos-Karney to Hirdes, and the list goes on and on.  "It was like siting next to the mayor of a small town", Byron (contestant Farquer's dad) said when describing how many people Jerold commented on. "He seems to either know everyone, coached their kids, or tuned up their rope horse at one time or another".  he added.  When Case Hirdes (a District 5 top ranked tie-down and team roper) had a horse pull up lame in Clovis, Jerold was able to get him mounted on a really good calf/heel horse in time for the Challenge of Champions.  "I knew what horse would fit him and sent him up with another family so Case would be competitive, not just mounted" said Jerold.  Editor's Note: Case Hirdes and his partner placed in the top 10 in team roping, and came back to compete in the short go on Sunday.  As fellow rodeo contestants and fans watch various performances throughout the year you are likely to see a cowboy or cowgirl, youth or adult, that Camarillo's have either coached or riding a horse that they have tuned up at some point.  Congratulations to all of those CHSRA cowboys and cowgirls that made it to the 2010 Challenge of Champions rodeo.  Some of the kids expressed a big thankyou to the Camarillos who continue to show this sport that winners do more than just win, they help others do the same. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

NFR Finals - The Wrap Up - Leo Camarillo's Point of View

As usual, the team I expected to be savvy proved me wrong. In the final round, Chad Masters had a chance at the one steer I’d been waiting all week for them to cut out. The steer literally walked out of the chute every round, and why they kept the oddball in the herd is beyond me. Nevertheless, Chad drew him in the final round and he was riding Hanson. When referring to Hanson, the first words out of anybody’s mouth are, “HE’LL DUCK.” Hanson, in his day, was the epitome of a head horse, and he still is a great horse, but he’s notorious for ducking. He’s now on the last steers of his life, ready to retire and is what he is. Due to his age and experience he’s good for one round—only! He’ll give a guy the first round, but peg him the second. He’s experienced and quick to figure a guy out.

Last year, Hanson’s owner (World’s Champion Matt Sherwood) understanding this fact, got on Hanson to win one round and then got off him. This year Chad got his run on Hanson in the 9th round. In the tenth, when Chad lifted up and went to swinging his rope in the box (ready to pounce on a world record), Hanson read the play. Understanding the call to cheat (Chad going off in the box) he anticipated the stick and figured to cut left as soon as they left the box. This wasn’t Hanson’s first rodeo NFR. He knew when and where he needed to go. He’s been blueprinted, and he took the route. Unfortunately, instead of heading for the steer, he headed for the hot dog stand.

Them old veteran horses are smarter than most ropers. On a horse like Hanson, a guy can’t advertise his intentions and quit riding because the horse knows exactly what’s up and what should go down—before his rider does. I’m sure Chad knew that steer wasn’t going anywhere. I assume Chad was focused on the drop of that neck rope and Masters-fully stick’n a new record. Hence, he committed to his rope and quit riding his horse. (Que lastima) His reflexive-communication with Hanson (correcting his duck) came long after his shot was gone.

Pulling for Chad, my beef was why they kept that eight-ball in the herd in the first place. But that’s rodeo. Like rolling the dice, you get what you get and that’s what you work with. Prove how high you can cowboy-up and be flexible. Power swings and box-shots seem the trend these days and are beneficial when you draw a dart, but when you’ve got a “walker” and you absolutely know it’s not going to out run you, contain your urge to keep pace with the pack. No sense in swinging (for power) when a steer is stopping. Slow steers can be just as tricky as quick steers especially when they’ve been tried a few rounds. You’ve got to regroup, be patient and let him out before you knock him off. Dribbling your ball up and laying your shot in is perfectly acceptable.

Team Roping is (has always been and will always be) about catching, and no matter what the situation—slow steer, fast steer, any kind of steer, the one thing you always do is ride. RIDE YOUR HORSE! ALWAYS!

With the new NFR requirements for catching I say it’s time to open up that tight, little Thomas and Mac. They’ve got it set like a mouse trap (a quick, short score; smaller cattle), so the cattle have no real chance of their own. Winning or losing is predominantly up to weather the cowboys beat themselves. Since today’s competitors are full-time specialists, it’s time to do-away with two loops, second jumps, and all the running around. Put a little bit more animal back into it (bigger calves, bigger steers, fresh bull dogging steers, etc.), stretch that score out there, and bring on some real cowboy-challenge. Speed takes on a whole new significance when things aren’t set up to be fast.

That’s all I know… Rope Smart! The Lion

Monday, January 11, 2010


Implementing one loop only (per man) this year triggered no hesitancy in 2009’s finalists. Teams drew their swords like always—including Nick Sartain who impressively fought like a soldier. Nick was sharp and confident. I could see him entertaining the idea of day-money in each run, yet he held his composure enough to stay in the average. Nick was slick.

By the fourth round, more than half the teams (10 out of 15) had fallen. By the end of the fifth, only 3 teams were standing. At that point, a competitor decides weather to make business runs or gamble his shots. When you’re out of the average, sure, have fun with it, but when you’re one of 3 teams left; Average payouts are at least 2 ½ times over day money; all you have to do is catch (barriers and legs are valid) to take at least third in the average. HELLO?

Average-roping is business-roping and in most cases (like 10 head) the basic job is catching, that’s all you have to do. Nobody can tell me those top three teams can’t catch 5 steers. Put any of them teams in the practice pen on 500 head of horns, and they’ll hammer out solid 4s every run (2 horns + 2 feet = 4 seconds, solid). You’ll see machine-style, brilliant roping all day long, yet when the flag’s up the complexion changes. Speed-fevers spike and suddenly it’s no longer about catching but all about speed. This year (NFR 2009), with ropes ablaze, the need-to-be-three virus plagued 14 of the 15 teams.

The fifth round was the wall for a few. About then, I noticed Luke’s (Brown) swing weakening. He kept wanting to throw, but his horse was billy-goat’n and wouldn’t get up there for Luke to take an authoritative shot. Because Luke was not getting a solid start, his horse was short. Instead of sitting down and riding up there to get in position Luke would raise up to swing. (A simple over-under behind will turbo-boost your horse out of a missed start to get you a better shot). Anticipating Luke’s throw, his horse would quit running leaving Luke way out of position. Thus, Luke’s swing grew more and more hesitant, until finally, in the tenth round, it caught up with him.

Team roping is about catching. And your rope is only part of it. Catching is a combination of riding your horse and working your rope. You swing for power. You ride for accuracy. Riding your horse is like dribbling the ball for a shot. Once you stop dribbling, your shot is at the mercy of your position. When you rise up to swing, instead of staying down and riding, your horse anticipates what’s coming (your throw) and usually quits running. It’s very important to get your horse up there, when you know you HAVE to catch. That extra step or two (from your horse) in front can shave an extra second or two behind (for your heeler). It can also be the difference between “time” and “no time.”

Though today’s ropers are phenomenal shooters, they limit themselves to high percentage shots. When catching matters, a guy needs to think outside the box (literally) and set things up in a run. (A) Consider your obstacles and aim to keep your play in the fairway. (B) Get in position and take a commanding shot. (C) It ain’t over ‘til it’s over. A glory-headshot is only glorious when your heeler can slam the door.

Stay tuned for Part Two of “The B3 Virus”
Rope Smart!

The Lion